Battling Boro’s Thinner Red Line

BATTLE-scarred Boro took a big, big point with a spirited away day display at in-form Ipswich – but at what cost?
With two centre-backs crocked before the break at Portman Road and Marvin Emnes limping out in the second half, the rising body count is deeply worrying. Not just the number of the injuries but the position specific nature will have Tony Mowbray pulling his hair out.
With Matthew Bates the biggest worry – there are fears that he has damaged his suspect cruciate again – the Thin Red Line at the back is in danger of cracking.

It was a difficult night. While Emnes left the ground limping heavily and with an ice pack on his knee, it is the bumps at the back that will be giving the gaffer nightmares.
Matthew Bates is set for a scan today and is braced for a bad news. The skipper was shielding the ball out and was given a little nudge by Michael Chopra and stumbled awkwardly on the hard Astroturf strip alongside the pitch and twisted a knee.
It looked innocuous enough but after climbing to his feet gingerly and testing it he shook his head and limped off down the tunnel. Given his history – four cruciates – every time he takes a knock on his knee or goes down heavily under a challenge I wince inside.
Another one would be a massive blow to the team but a personal nightmare for the player. He is out of contract in the summer and was expected to be courted by Premier League sides but a fifth reconstruction operation would make that seem very unlikely. Who would take a chance when he has so many dead men’s tendons inside his suspect joints? There was a possibility of joining Swansea last summer but he opted to see out his deal at Boro. That could yet be a decision that will haunt him.
But it is too early to speculate on that. Let’s see what the scan shows. Fingers crossed. The worst case scenario doesn’t bear thinking about but even a relatively routine ligament injury could sideline him for a month – that’s the the rest of the season. Even a few weeks out, a few games, could leave Boro with a huge headache.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, soon after poor Seb Hines was given a bruising reminder of why Portman Road is not his lucky ground.
In this fixture last season Hines, then enjoying a good run of form, was clattered in a crowded Boro box and suffered a badly broken jaw and lost three teeth to boot. After being patched-up and cleaned down on the pitch he soldiered on for 10 minutes and even put in a couple of headers before limping out for the season.
There were familiar cartoon tweeting birds and stars for him last night again as he was caught full in the head as the advancing Ipswich keeper came out to punch powerfully when the defender went up fully focussed on attacking a Hammill free-kick.
He crashed to the turf in a heap and looked to be spark out. Both physios and the Ipswich club doctor were quickly over to treat him – a touch of post-Muamba caution possibly? – and it was several minutes before he was up to make it groggily to the break before being replaced.
There were no centre-backs on the bench ready to step into the breech. In fact, there are no spare centre-backs at the club right now. Help!
Rhys Williams, first choice partner to skipper Bates before being pushed into midfield while Nicky Bailey was out on crutches, is crocked, out with a knee ligament injury, possibly for the rest of the season. The club were making optimistic noises recently that he would be back by the end of the month – but unless Boro make the play-offs the campaign ends on the 29th of April anyway.
Stephen McManus, who started the season as a key component of the defence that recorded five clean sheets on the bounce, is out on loan at Bristol City (and carrying a slight knock) while Jonathan Grounds, well down the pecking order but at least with first team game time under his belt, is on loan at Yeovil.
The only other player on the books with the briefest glimpse of senior experience in the role is Ben Gibson who is on loan at York City and out injured and on crutches.
Having already served 28 days of their loans, all can be recalled – providing the standard clauses are included in the deal. No doubt Big Mick will be back on his way to Teesside as we speak, no matter how much Bristol want him to stay or what the impact it will have on plans they had for a full time switch in the summer.
Having spent much of the loan deadline day last Thursday trying to bring in one of a string of fringe Premier League stoppers he knew that he was hostage to fortune. In fact, he admitted he was “terrified” at the prospect of an injury at the back. It was a fine example of “Sod’s Law” then within days both his current pairing were crunched.
Boro played the second half at Ipswich with a makeshift central defensive pairing of Tony McMahon and Nicky Bailey who did incredibly well in difficult circumstances.
McMahon at least has some experience. He started out as a centre-back in the Academy and was only nudged out the right by the emergence of David Wheater and Matthew Bates but he hasn’t played that role in the senior side.
He has played as part of a back three but will be the first to admit that it is a different and more demanding discipline altogether in a conventional pairing – especially when your temporary partner is a player who arrived at the club as an attacking midfielder.
Versatile Bailey – described on twitter as Boro’s “ginger human Swiss army penknife” for his ability to do any job – was an obvious choice to drop back after the injuries. He has become a pivotal figure in the team as an industrious tackling machine shielding the defence and in effect was playing the same role but 20 yards deeper.
The pair did incredibly well and coped with one of the most mobile and experienced attacks in the division and, in the latter stages, with the height and power of Jason Scotland too.
The defensive injuries and how to deal with them will dominate the debate as Boro prepare for a six-pointer at Brighton and as the play-off chase comes to the boil.
But they shouldn’t be allowed to completely over-shadow the highlights of a spirited show, especially in the second half, that took what could be a useful point.
Ipswich had won five in a row at home so a draw was a decent result. Especially when you consider we looked set to get battered in the original frozen off fixture. The players and boss were disappointed not to have won having weathered a storm and created some good chances to seal it – Jutkiewicz missed a sitter – but given the scale of the injuries and the enforced reshuffle we should be reasonably happy.
There were some great individual displays, not least from some players who have been attracting unfriendly fire from terrace snipers over recent weeks. Joe Bennett – 22 today – had his best game for months and was focussed and effective at both ends of the pitch, Justin Hoyte was impressive (again) and after a couple of incisive crosses in teed up the goal for Lukas Jutkiewicz, – 23 today – while bad boy Barry Robson was back and didn’t even get booked and Jason Steele pulled off a superb penalty save.
So a good point… but there is no getting away from the pressing need to record a win soon. We need to win at least three and probably four of the last seven. It has been five without victory now and the last three results for binary Boro have been 1-1, 1-1, 1-1 – “good” draws at West Ham and Ipswich either side of a poor one with Bristol City. That is a poor return for a side with play-off pretensions.
Yet despite that run and a threadbare look to the squad, Boro are still in there. The rest are equally inept. Boro have only won two games in eight – but the play-off pack behind are squandering even more points as the jitters set in. Hull have won one in 10, Cardiff one in eight and Birmingham one in seven.
The current play-offs Phoney War can’t continue. One or two of those teams in the pack WILL go on a run and string a few wins together in the final straight. We have to make sure we are one of them. By hook or by crook.
Brighton next, level on points in fourth – and they’ve only won two in seven. That’s a massive game. With injuries mounting and the odds stacked against us.
Bring it on.
Highlights of the live and interactive #borolive cyber-terrace bite-sized babble from the game plus a link to the goals is available via my round-up on Storify. Look here.
And by popular demand (well, a couple of people anyway) … here’s your chance to print out and play with the Gazette’s exclusive almost scientific fill-in and fret-over Play-off Predictor Panel


29 thoughts on “Battling Boro’s Thinner Red Line

  1. That match sounded on Radio Brownlee a lot better than any game I have seen at home for ages. Mind you, I have listened to some home games with earphones in, and his description and the game do not always match up!
    The desire sounded as if it was present, as you indicated in your second paragraph above. That is also an improvement on the last home game.
    A point gained rather than two lost, in all the circumstances?

  2. I would have taken the point at 7.45pm, no quibles at 9.45.
    I dont think Hines will be going to East Anglia for his holidays. Lets hope he and bates are not too seriously crocked.

  3. In the circs, we’ll take a battling point and some strong performances.
    Got to start winning a few games soon, though – especially in the six pointers with those in and around the top six, which is about half of what we’ve got left.
    The Matt Bates injury sounded worrying for the lad. The way he went off the pitch and straight down the tunnel and Mogga’s reluctance to say anything but in a worried way made one fear the worst.
    What about that Atkinson lad that you mentioned, AV?
    **AV writes: Atkinson is 19, big lad who can lay anywhere across the back, an England youth international, very highly rated. They gave him a four year deal last year and he is pencilled in as a strong prospect. He missed a lot of last year with a back injury but came back strongly. I’m surprised he hasn’t been out on loan this year as part of his development.
    But that said, I’d expect Big Mick back at Hurworth today.

  4. A good point in the end considering all of the substitutions were enforced and required tactical re-jigging. Dipping in and out of the BBC text commentary it was difficult to make out why the substitutions happened as they did, and equally difficult to work out what magical back four permutation we had opted for.
    Disappointing news for Hines, who was beginning to establish himself, and offer a decent threat in the opposition area, a sort of Riggott-esque attacking outlet. And gutting for Bates too – I suppose it was a miracle he had managed so many games this season, between him and Mr Pelvic (Rhys Williams), there was always a risk of having one or both out for a large spell.
    If Big Mick doesn’t come back from loan now, well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. The only reason they wouldn’t recall him is if the club truly is brassic and can’t pay his wages. Over to you Mr Gibson…
    The way this play-off race is shaping up, you’d have to say that right down to maybe even Ipswich in 15th (15th place!!!) any team could have a shout of getting the remaining three play off places – West Ham/Reading are nailed on for 3rd place – so anyone who puts in a good run (say four wins on the bounce) will rocket up the table. In that respect, almost every team in the league is a “play off rival”.
    Brighton on Saturday, at the Riverside, most of our defence out crocked, Marvin limping, poor run of form, poor home form etc etc. It’s a nailed on 3-2 Boro win surely?

  5. Despite everything we got a good point. I would have taken that before the game especially after we looked like getting humped in the original fixture.
    It was a baffing team selection but the coaching staff and manager see the players all week in training – perhaps TM just picked his fittest 11. After the injuries the team became more unfathomable still prompting the twitterati to joke about total football with Bailey and McMahon at the back.
    Special praise for Jason Steele who, as he did at West Ham, played a huge part in gaining the result.
    I agree with AV and JP though (as I said at full time on twitter) – we must start to win a few soon. I’ve given up predicting where the points will come from.

  6. Smoggy in Exile, the Brighton fixture is on the South Coast this Saturday, not the Riverside.
    Praying hard that the damage to the back four isn’t going to translate into loss of our away form. It sounds like the spirit is there after last night, lets just hope lady luck will smile on us now.

  7. Good point last night, especially with Hull losing.
    Is Matty Bates out of contarct at the end of this season? If he has done another cruciate he may struggle to get another contract at any club
    C’Mon Boro!

  8. Well, that was a ‘good’ point as opposed to the bad one we got on Saturday! And the good news is we’re away again on Saturday, you never know we might just scrape into the top six.
    Fingers crossed that Matthew Bates hasn’t got serious knee ligament damage, would his career survive another major knee injury?

  9. Great point last night but at what cost, lets wait and see.
    I for one feel that it will strengthen us having Big Mick back, I was dissapointed when he was dropped in the first place but could understand the reasoning for being put out on loan. Perhaps this bad luck could actually do us a favour, although Gibbo won’t be too happy.

  10. Last night’s Gazette predictor – this is what I have come up with!
    READING 85
    WEST HAM 84
    CARDIFF 70
    HULL CITY 69
    No rose tinted spectacles – my very considered opinion – but also worried about Leeds and Leicester whom I think will be in amongst the final shake-up as well! They should have been included in this exercise as well Anthony…..
    **AV writes: Maybe, but you’ve got to draw a line somewhere and it’s so tight and form at the top is so ropey that anyone from about 14th up could sneak in if they win four or five out of seven.
    I get Boro sneaking into sixth with West Ham, Brighton and Birmingham making up the rest of the play-off lottery winners.
    Anyone else do the Gazette cut out, fill in and fret over Predictor Panel? I’ll get it put on-line now for those that missed the low tech paper version.

  11. When the manager made his first foray into the transfer market he paid £150K for a centre half who quickly established himself as our 7th choice in the position.
    Well done to the lads who tucked in there last night, but how did we go from having 7 to choose from to having none available (and apparently trying to loan one last week) in little over a year? You have to wonder what’s going on at the club. If there’s a plan, it must be a ruddy cunning one.

  12. Er, whoops – thanks Powmill – just spotted my typo! Even better if the game is away, we might be able to do a number on them and start the winning run.
    The lack of goals is as much of a problem as the lack of centre backs though. It’s been five games since we scored two in one game.
    Anyway, make no mistakes – the next three games are season defining stuff. Six points would be a welcome return, but ideally we won’t lose any of them as it means giving points to promotion rivals.

  13. I’ve been doing the BBC Championship predictor again. Somehow I managed to get Boro finishing 6th with 71 points, winning two more and drawing three. I thought I was being more than helpful to the other teams in the mix, but we still scraped 6th:
    Soton -92
    Reading – 84
    WHU – 83
    B&HA – 73
    B’pool 72
    Boro – 71
    B’ham – 70
    Cardiff – 70
    I have to stop doing this as it really is impossible to predict anyone’s results with any confidence given the topsy turvy form that every team is showing. Smog in exile is right, the goals situation is a big concern. I am most worried that the goal difference situation will undo us at the end of the season.
    Any news on the centre back situation AV?
    **AV writes: Stephen McManus has been recalled from his loan spell at Bristol and will be back training at Hurworth tomorrow.

  14. Brave point last night, but oh so close to three!
    It really is time the terrace boo boys laid off our players, as you allude to AV, it is doing no-one any good criticising players, no wonder we can’t win at home. Put that energy into cheering the team instead.
    I think we need four wins, but don’t know where they will come from! and lastly, I am already deciding that IF we get to the play-offs, I certainly don’t wanna be playing West Ham; over two legs, or at Wembley! so I hope they go straight up and get the hell outta the way!

  15. That had to be the softest and most ridiculous penalty ever. Thankfully Jason Steele saved the officials’ blushes and more importantly kept us in the game.
    A gritty battling performance that somehow doesn’t seem to materialise at the Riverside for some bizarre reason. The injuries tested the resolve of the players and Mogga and they came out of it with huge credit especially Steele, Macca and Bails.
    The goal was well worked by Joe Bennett putting a nicely weighted ball across the box for Hoyte to head back across allowing Juke the freedom of the goal.
    The fear that Bates may have another cruciate problem was a major downer along with the anxiety over Seb Hines, it never rains but it pours! At least the return of McManus brings a player who can slot straight in and who is match fit plus it gives him the opportunity to stake a claim and play a major part in our quest for the play-offs. Something tells me this could be a fairytale return for McManus and proving his real worth.
    It could have been three points but it wasn’t to be but more importantly it repaired the confidence and belief levels all round. Its going to be a tough run in with some tasty fixtures on the last day with Reading and West Ham neck and neck it looks like it will go down to literally the 94th minute of the last days fixtures!

  16. News Flash from Sky Sports.
    Everton have renamed their ground ‘The Cillit Bang Arena’.
    I’ve looked at the product, apparently it removes filth from cups.
    I’ll get me coat.

  17. Glad to see McManus back. He might not be Mowbray’s idea of good centre-back (i.e. a quick, ball-playing one) but he’s got his own strengths is very decent at Championship level.
    A centre-half pairing of McManus and McMahon will not be short of effort. They will be short of a pace, but with us playing away at the weekend we can expect to defend deep and look to counter so there shouldn’t be too much space behind the back line anyway – our tactics should ensure that the pace of Brighton’s forward line should be a diminished threat.
    With TM only managing to secure Hammill on loan, having McManus back hopefully isn’t too much of financial burden. I would imagine that Bristol City were only paying a percentage of his wages anyway.
    Speaking of Hammill, whilst he is frustratingly over-elaborate I think we ought to be a little more patient with him. He hasn’t played much football and will also take time to adjust to our football. Why is that permanent transfers are given a grace period to settle in but loanees are not? It is not their fault if the loaning club can’t afford them that time.

  18. Dont think big Mick will let us down he has been thrown into a play off fight and right into the shop window. Also hoping the other guys are not serious.
    Will settle for a draw at Brighton although a win is not beyond us.
    Will be devastated if we miss out on playoffs due to goal diff. Said 7th at the beginning of the season now hoping I am very wrong.

  19. Bates injury shocker is a sickner. If he was a horse…..
    AV: Whilst it is still early doors any idea what would happen to the lad? The club has a duty to look after him through the injury. Would that include wages during treatment once his contract has ended?
    I guess this puts the club in a strong position to cut his wages massively on any new offer or even a pay as you play bonus to beef the package up.
    Would the club be insured against this ie covering costs of treatment and wages? Or the premium would be more than Tevez’ weekly wage!
    **AV writes: He will be paid up until his contract runs out. After that, who knows. I think Mogga has a deep sense of honour and will want to do “the right thing” but I don’t think the club are in any position do to what they did last time. Then they made a massive show of faith in his ability to bounce back and offered him a new three year deal. We were in the Premier League then. It was a different universe.
    Medical treatment won’t be a problem. The club will be covered for that and once he is out of contract the PFA will step in. That will be for a certain level of care and rehabilitation. Anything above that he will need to pay himself. My understanding is that last time he largely funded the treatment in the US with Dr Steadman himself.
    I can’t see his mooted suitors – Swansea etc – wanting to take a chance although I suppose it depends on the prognosis when the specialists take a detailed look at the scans. Who knows maybe is not a “bad” cruciate. Treatment is far better these days and repairs are almost routine. It may “just” be six months.
    My feeling is that Boro will offer him the opportunity of rehab and training at Rockcliffe with the team while he battles back with maybe the carrot of a short term or pay-per-play contract once he proves his fitness. Maybe that is “the right thing.”

  20. It was a strange line up at Ipswich. When they lined up, a host of us couldn’t believe that the only striker, Marvin, was on the wing. The consensus was that we were settling for a draw before the ball was kicked.
    Yes Hoyte played well but my man of the match was Bailey. Tony Mc played his heart out as usual and it was nice to see him once again applauding our travelling army at the end.
    Lucas is worrying. He shows a remarkable lack of ball control whenever he tries to tee up for a shot. He has some kind of shooting block. His disallowed goal was a rocket into the top corner. No pressure as he had already been pulled up by the ref. Joe was great as was Steele. Penalty save superb. Their goal good enough for goal of the season.
    I was reasonably satisfied with the point, they have been on good home form for weeks. Why play Marvin on the wing when we have Reach, a far better crosser of the ball. Robson was out of sorts and never really got a grip of the game.
    Like every Boro supporter, I am hoping that Mattie comes through this. He was crocked here in East Anglia years ago. Neither he nor Seb should ever come this way again.

  21. I’m sure all the posters wish Bates a full recovery – would love to see him back in the colours in the future.
    Was perplexed by Mogga’s team selection against Ipswich but we came away with a point. Hmm. Our home form being what it is, we can’t rely on picking up single points away to see us into the play-offs. With a lack of central defenders attack, would seem to be only form of defence.
    Must assume we’re going to be 352 with Big Mick center, Tony Mac (player of the year?) one side and errr, Hoyte? Bennet? AN Other the other? Bails to sit deep, Robson and Smallwood in front with Arca and Hammill making width. Juke and Smogbeche up front.
    Maybe the personal doesn’t matter, maybe not the formation. Seven games to go, three at home, four away. Attitude is all important now. It must be all guns blazing untill the end of the season.
    I’m off to the Amex on Saturday. I’m sure I won’t be alone..

  22. Big Mick and Tony Mc can do a job for us,
    To be honest Tony Mc would be one of the first on the team sheet for me his drive and comitment has been sorley missed since what, the Sunderland game when he had thier new superstar in his pocket
    Both players are more than capable of proforming at the top of the Championship
    Although Batesy and Williams are a class above in this league Mick and Mack can see us through.
    Did you predictor with black glasses on
    Southampton 93 even put them beating us
    West Ham 82 they can not miss out
    Readibing 78 teams will surely sus them
    Birmingham 74 being kind
    Brighton 73 us to beat them this week
    Cardif 72 Guess who made the wrong move
    My heart goes out to Batesy. He got my vote for player of the year. Hope its not bad news but if so I feel for sure Steve Gibson will look after the lad and we will see him back captaining the team next season

  23. I’m sure Boro will ‘look after’ Bates as AV states. Mogga appears to be a man of honour and also more pragmatically assuming he can fully recover then he (Bates) will be an asset to the squad again.
    That said I dont believe the club has a duty to the player any more than the player has a duty to the club to sign a new contract in return to being ‘looked after’ on four previous occasions. After all there’s a good chance Bates would have left this summer on a free if Boro were still in the Championship and signed for Swansea or whoever on £15k a week. For ‘duty’, ‘honour’ or whatever else you want to call it, it has to cut both ways.
    I hope Bates recovers and signs a new Boro contract because he’s a very good player.

  24. I agree with Nigel Reeve at 3.10pm about honour cutting both ways.
    Essentially a player like Batesy takes a gamble in running down his contract. If we get promoted, he can negotiate a new deal at Premier League (though hopefully not stupid) wages. If we fail to go up, he can then look around to other clubs for offers – leaving on a “free” or at least being able to pocket any fee himself or being able to factor the “no fee” into the wage negotiations by agreeing a higher salary.
    He would no doubt justify that by saying it is a short career, and that he has to look after himself and his future. By allowing the contract to run down, he can make himself available to Premier clubs or other clubs who could pay higher wages than Boro could currently afford to match.
    The other side of the coin, however, is that you run your contract down with a view to maximising your financial options at the end of the season, but you then have a serious injury as the contract comes to a close, no-one would be prepared to grant a lucrative contract (even if the player recovered, any new club would probably want to “see how he goes for 20/30 games first”).
    If you gamble, but then lose, do most bookies give you your stake money back? “You were about to leave us, for nothing, as you thought you could make more money that way. You are now injured. Don’t worry – we will see you alright and give you another contract”. That is a bit of a one-way-street, isn’t it?
    I hope things turn out well for Batesy. He has generally played well for us this season. He is a bit short (well, quite bit short, actually!) for a centre-back, but certainly at Championship level he is a good player and one we would wish to keep. The problem is that, if it is another serious knee ligament injury, one has to worry whether he will be sorted out, then another ligament or other knee problem will arise.
    Maybe his body is old beyond its years. And like an old car or even an old person, when one thing goes and is then sorted out, the next weakest link goes down shortly afterwards. I hope it turns out better for him than we might fear. But if you were to buy an asset for £5M, or to pay £15K or £20K a week for it over a contract lasting a few years, you would want some assurance that the asset was going to have a value throughout the contract.
    On Twitter no doubt you’d say something like #keepyourkneestogether or #keepyourfingerscrossed.

  25. I agree largely with Nigel Reeves and Forever Dormo and their perspectives on Matthew Bates’s injury – for several reasons.
    There’s been little sentimentality around while players (generally) and their agents have been ramping up their take of club revenues. Players and their representatives (aided by the Bosman Ruling) have been partly responsible for the inflationary effects in football and the resultant further polarisation of the leagues.
    Players haven’t exactly been in the vanguard of purists calling for a retention of community identity in the sport, nor have they been vocal or otherwise active in demanding lower entrance fees for supporters, for example.
    I wish no ill on any football player – no more than anyone else in any other profession – and especially on players of the team I support. But these young men have chosen to enter a well-paid profession which heavily loads their earning potential towards the front end of their working lives and, for that, they assume some degree of risk that the physical demands on their bodies may result in earlier than planned or intended termination of their CHOSEN career. They enter into it in full knowledge of what the “game” entails in a physical sense.
    I can’t help but feel that we, as a society, really ought to be seeing the likes of Matthew Bates’s misfortune against a a much bigger backdrop, however – just as we should, Fabrice Muamba’s serious health scare, for that matter.
    There are soldiers in Afghanistan being paid a pittance by comparison and running much greater risk than professional footballers, AND far more of them have not only had their careers terminated, but have in fact lost their lives in over 400 cases in this campaign alone. And that’s not even taking account of the serious injury cases that we don’t hear so much about.
    There are people on Teesside who are losing their jobs daily without prospects of finding another one soon and without the cushion of the many, many thousands of pounds that matthew Bates has had lavished upon him in the short time he’s been employed by MFC.
    As I said, I don’t wish either Bates or Muamba anything other than a speedy recovery and return to full fitness. But I won’t be leading or even joining any movement calling for any special treatment of already rich (by most people’s standards) young man.
    And that’s NOT sour grapes, in any shape or form. I’m genuinely content to live on a small fraction of what even “poor” football players are “earning” and have no desire for great wealth. All I seek is moderation and sensible proportion in society generally and in discussion and opinion. Nigel Reeve and Forever Dormo provided that in their most recent posts.

  26. Matthew Bates is a warning to other players. He took the risk of running his contract down so he could look at the options at the end of his contract as he is absolutely entitled to do.
    At the moment they appear for him to pay for all his treatment or throw himself on the largesse of the club.
    I think the club will do something to help him out but they have no obligation to do so for someone who has had more cruciate oprations than I have hot dinners.
    Maybe there was a better way such as Downing and Williams. Take a contract offered safe in the knowledge that the club would take a decent sum if he moved, he would have security and still have options open if a suitable club came in for him. Anything goes wrong and the club are there to support him.
    I have conflicting views, I want the club to do the best by him because he has had a rotten time with injuries but there is that feeling that he is the architect of his own downfall.
    He has been on Premiership wages long after we left the top flight. All those who lost their livelihoods inside and outside the club when we were relegated got jack.
    If he has advisers maybe they can dig in to their pockets to help him out.

  27. Bad news for Bates, but it’s hard not to agree with everyone else on here. We backed him through FOUR cruciate injuries, even offering him a nice new contract last time.
    Clearly the contract extension he was offered in the summer was at a lower wage, he’s not a PL player anymore, and clearly he is within his rights to decline it and continue on his current, more generous conditions, but there has to be an element of accepting that choice was a risk.
    Loyalty is a very philosophical concept in football, and an increasingly rare one. I am not going to call Bates disloyal for turning down the extension, as it would clearly have been on reduced money. His intention was clearly to see if we were promoted, in which case he may well have signed a new contract on the same terms as his current deal. Quids in for him. Equally he may well have signed a reduced deal and stayed at the club anyway, we will never know now.
    But although I will not call him disloyal, I think he owed more to the club when he was offered the extension. More in terms of guaranteeing us a good transfer fee if he was to secure a move to the PL. At the end of the day, if we could have got £1m for him this summer, that’s better than us getting nothing because he walks away at the end of his contract. Plus, he could always have inserted a clause to renegotiate should we be promotoed.
    I have sympathy for him, but what happened is so clearly an example of Sods Law that I wonder why he never saw it as a possibility? To go back to the notion of loyalty, the club have proved their loyalty to him ample times in the past, perhaps now he will have the opportunity to repay some of that loyalty.

  28. I don’t think Matthew Bates’ decision not to sign a new contract was anything other than that of a footballer wanting to fulfill his professional ambition to play at the highest level he is capable of.
    I’m sure he wasn’t expecting any PL club to offer him anything approaching silly money – but would anyone here agree to a wage of only a quarter of what he could normally expect?
    Also, lets not cry loyalty too loudly – MFC have decided against offering new contracts to many a loyal player if they think they are not good enough. Plus all of Bates’ injuries have occured whilst he carried out his job for his employer so it’s only right that the club have a duty to look after him.
    OK, it’s different if an injured player is unlikely to fully recover – in this case a club would not be behaving unreasonably by not offering a new contract.
    So let’s wish Bates a speedy and full recovery and I’m sure the club will assist in every way they can to both help him and motivate him on this latest journey – though having already recoverd from four previous cruciate injuries Bates must have a strong self belief in his powers of recovery – good luck!

  29. Exactly 13 weeks ago today on 1st January things were quite different.
    Boro 2nd
    Brummies 12th
    Blackpool 9th
    Brighton 16th!!!
    46% of league matches with clean sheets
    Boro have had a lousy 2 clean sheets in 16 league games since
    Goal Difference of +10 then
    Brummies +6
    Blackpool +5
    Brighton (Minus)-5
    Boro 7th
    Brummies 4th
    Blackpool 5th
    Brighton 6th
    12.5% of matches with clean sheets
    Goal difference of just + 3
    Brummie’s GD +21 Twenty One!
    Blackpool + 13
    Brighton +8
    What has happened? Injuries + suspensions? Presumably other teams don’t get injuries or suspensions. Now only five Championship teams have scored less than The Boro
    Had we stopped West Ham,Ipswich, Bristol City and Brighton from scoring their one goal each, and Leicester from sneaking an 86th minute equalizer……
    whilst not scoring any more goals than we have, The Boro would be sat in 3rd spot above West Ham, with 73 points, and a damn good chance of getting an automatic promotion place.
    That’s how close we come from being with the elite rather than having to slog it out for another 46 next term.
    Ah well, what might have been.
    Ok nurse, yes, I’ll take my meds now.
    Ah, that’s better, now where was I?…zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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